Entering Edgewise | Ganesh Sundaram at AlefEdge

In part one of my conversation with Ganesh Sundaram of AlefEdge, he talked about the concept of the “Edge Internet,” and how his company, AelfEdge, is attempting to create the software architecture to make it a reality.

In this second part of our conversation, Ganesh discusses how he came to view his software as a metaphor and not just a technology, and in what ways that expanded view helped open up the developmental potential.

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Dr. Sundaram is a leader in Internet technologies with over 20 years of rich experience in technology creation and product realization.

He is the founder and CEO of AlefEdge which is Pioneering the next generation distributed Edge Internet, and was recently recognized for his “Biggest Individual Contribution to Edge Computing Development” at the Edge Awards. He has developed several foundational technologies leading to new standards, products, and deployments and has authored over 50 patents relating to the Mobile Internet. He was named a Bell Labs Fellow in 2012, inducted into the Alcatel-Lucent Technical Academy in 2009, and is a recipient of two Bell Labs President’s Awards.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Ganesh Sundaram 0:00
It didn’t happen overnight, I’m saying we were able to improve the click through rates. Beyond impressions by a factor of two, other than Instagram, it was just crazy. Because it’s so immersive the videos it was all. And then we started noticing the adaptive bitrate algorithms that are used for video delivery, are performing 50%.

Alexander Ferguson 0:32
In part one of my conversation with Ganesh Sundaram of Alefedge, he talked about the concept of the edge Internet, and how his company Alefedge is attempting to create the software architecture to make it a reality. In the second part of our conversation, Ganesh discusses how he came to view his software as a metaphor, and not just the technology and in what ways that expanded view helped open up the developmental potential connection, I’m excited to continue our conversation, this has been a journey for you, you’ve seen this coming. But then to develop this, this, your company to take, I wouldn’t say take advantage, but be able to be ready to serve as this economy is ready, and the marketplace is ready. How helped me understand maybe some of the earlier challenges that you had to overcome to get the ball rolling and moving to another entrepreneur, another leader can learn from? And that may be maybe you’re too early, before the majority is there? How do you help a movement change? How do you educate your consumers of the value of both your service as well as the movements? What would you say?

Ganesh Sundaram 1:41
That’s a difficult question, but again, an important question that has to be addressed. Right? So it’s a it’s one thing to have a vision, which we all did, okay. And when I started this company, and I continue to do that, they expand as the company expands with more people. And the and the category starts to expand. We have a lot of believers, not just followers. So spotting the believers is going to be an important aspect of the of the of the conversation in terms of catalyzing a movement to become a real movement. Okay, that’s an important observation and make the stating it in very abstract terms, simply because I’m no Bill Gates, Steve Jobs to actually tell you, but I’m pretty sure they actually I am obviously inspired by by all these entrepreneurs, who, who created movements, the the, from a technology perspective, I have learned from the movements that took place in the operating system world have been inspired by it. Okay, so what do I mean by that? Microsoft built an operating system for the desktop. And they were able to drive adoption of that operating system by eliminating friction, and opening it up so that any browser can work on it. And the browser wall made it even simpler to take advantage of any application. I’m going back 20 years when I say that, and then 10 years, after that phenomenon, we had the explosion of what I would consider the the the smartphone movement, which was also started by an operating system, if you really think about it. So if I were to break down the internet, three different phases, the desktop internet, the edge Internet, and in between, then there was the mobile internet. I started looking at what was the, what’s the genesis of all these movements started with an operating system, whether it was the iOS or the Android or or Microsoft Windows or on the server side, it was Linux, right? There is a certain platform capability that needs to be brought in it’s very, very software centric, that was the starting point. So I told myself I need we need an edge operating system and operating system for the edge and then I started thinking about it as a metaphor not just as a technology okay. So, what is an operating system it gets things to talk to each other, if you distill it down to something as simple as that right, one component of it, so, we started looking at it as a metaphor. And here we are. So the innovation dimension of it is purely an inspirational process based on a vision and once I was able to synthesize and crystallize it, as the edge internet is, is the is the next phase of the internet in the previous Two generations, the MT mobile internet and prior to that the desktop internet, were all sparked by an operating system, even though the edge is not a device phenomenon, right? It’s just not right. It’s an architectural phenomenon, you need an operating system for that. And I synthesize that operating system as a platform. And then the second area of innovation that we had to put in place is we want a parallel universe that is going, going back to an earlier definition, which is connected to the existing internet universe. So you can do all the optimizations you can do in your parallel universe. But you got to be mindful of what’s already out there. Because these are mature industries. So nobody is going to go forklift, your infrastructure to accommodate the next guy with the bright idea in a ponytail, that’s just not going to happen. So we told ourselves, okay, we’re going to do an adaptive overlay into it. So what are the technologies that are no needed to co exist with the existing internet technologies? And leverage? So that was a second layer of innovation? And then the third layer of innovation was about API’s. Like I said,

Alexander Ferguson 6:17
what what kind of some of the tactics that you did to get that those first initial clients and and partners to make it happen? That’s a,

Ganesh Sundaram 6:25
again, I want to go back to what happened in the iPhone era, they had to see the market with a couple of use cases, it was the way I synthesized your question, again, is what are the few tactical things that we did? Maybe in the application space? Because the iPhone is an operating system? Right? I didn’t think of iPhone as hardware, if you want, I’m saying Android as an operating system. And they had to see that with a few tactical applications. And then the movement took over. Right? So again, what we did was, I can tell you, just going back to history, and externed taught us a very interesting lesson. And we’ve been able to grow based on that. We launched our first advertising edge based advertising solution, or 2015. And we had a use case, there was a publisher owned by the by the operator partner we were working with, who said, Hey, I have this publisher portal. And I want to make money on this. And, you know, it’s kind of a sponsor data portal. And but the advertising video advertising is just not working. Okay. I said, What do you mean by it’s not working? They were seeing about 100,000, they had a traffic of about 12 million users. But they had only 100,000 videos completing. Okay? I said, Okay, either I can optimize your portal and the application and make it fit on this network. Or I can optimize the network. So that video starts playing natively. I took the the latter. So we optimize the network, put some connectors and API’s and SDKs. And all of a sudden, day one, and I’m not, I’m so I’m super proud of my team. And I say the day one after lunch, we went from 100,000 impressions to 9.3 million impressions. It was just staggering. It was absolutely staggering. So what happened is that that tactical application, okay, which is turnkey, to be honest with you, we were able to demonstrate a massive economic outcome of the edge. Okay, that to me was the was the big learning. Okay. I, you know, I’m able to hear that, you know, sit here and talk to you about one second is the new two, new two seconds, right? It didn’t happen overnight, I’m saying, we were able to improve the click through rates. Beyond impressions, by a factor of two, other than Instagram, it was just crazy. Because it’s so immersive the videos, it was all. And then we started noticing the adaptive bitrate algorithms that are used for video delivery, are performing 50% Higher, because the latency got reduced. So all of a sudden, there’s more data that’s going through the radio network. And then we started noticing, they demanded the standard video optimization solution. Operators pay money to make less money, it doesn’t make any sense. How about saving money and making more money? It completely changed it around. So these are some of the big learnings we’ve gone through for it. Seemingly were tactical to get started.

Alexander Ferguson 9:55
That is a brilliant just a great tactic. just solving the problem right there. Give them a specific Use Case out we understand as a technology leader, you’re, as you said, you’re always learning, you’re always innovating, how and where do you go to learn? Where are you getting innovation and ideas? What kind of books have you been reading lately, or audio books or podcasts to gather insight.

Ganesh Sundaram 10:19
All of the above, I think majority of my day is spent on aligning with the market, we have to read a lot, talk to a lot of people. Of course, I read a lot. And I synthesize my thoughts in the form of blogs, and I never publish. I know my I give a lot of sleepless nights to my marketing team, because they just don’t publish. And there’s a lot of sentences that you have to do. So all of the above is the answer. But more importantly, it the perspective of how you’re going to be looking to listen, the key aspect is to listen and learn. So listening, could be through reading, it could be through audio books, it could be through conversations, right? And we sponsor events, by which I’m right now talking to you. So as you ask these questions, it gives me an opportunity to orient my thinking and say, Oh, well, yeah, this is what we did. I never thought about it, I thought it was a tactical opportunity to get started. But you, you framed it very well, I’m learning something from this. So it’s all going to be through conversations and reading and, and meeting people and trying to find out. Because as a as the founder, and and the visionary of a company, which is part of a large movement, especially for the kind of role that we’ve taken on it is very, very difficult to to be able to detect the signal as they saw, as they say, because there’s a lot of noise that goes on, okay. I don’t want to use terms like fake news and things like that. But to be able to distill what’s important requires a certain orientation. And the skill that I’m constantly trying to cultivate here is to create common problem statements. And then the only way to solve it is through learning.

Alexander Ferguson 12:20
A lot of what you’re talking already is this, but what kind of tech nology innovations do you predict will see in the near term? And the long term 510 years? And probably around? Maybe it’s specifically the innovations that will happen using edge computing?

Ganesh Sundaram 12:37
Yeah, so it’s a it’s a fascinating question. And one I’m constantly trying to get a handle on. Innovation is often, especially in the digital internet, is often tried tighter, what are the new types of applications that can be launched on top of the internet. But I do think that mobility aspects of it are often forgotten. Okay. For example, I’ll just give you a counter example of something that we’ve already implemented, which didn’t happen, right. So okay, you connectivity meets computing, which means the edge really creates a platform for the application to reside closer and closer to the user. But the user is moving, which means the application layer has to adapt to mobility. Never thought about, we had to do it, and we did it. And now the cloud layer, the orchestration layers have to move. The amount of computing that’s available, is less. So you need to come up with new phenomena by which and technologies by which the elasticity is made available, we’re probably going to discuss and define and discover new routing technologies. I just don’t believe the existing internet is set up for doing that. It’s not a matter of just IP addressing the verb was a phenomenon. Don’t look at web as just creating a bunch of applications, it created a platform, right? New types of API’s are going to be created. Okay. So the software movement is going to pervade every layer of it and we are going to find different form factors. I wouldn’t be surprised in the neck in the next few years. We start seeing the the telco boxes and the side of our curves being replaced by data centers. Let me close with that statement. It’s going to happen in a few years. Courtney on this

Alexander Ferguson 14:54
wow. I love that that that texture datacenter

Ganesh Sundaram 15:03
Wow, have you thought about that green box out there getting replaced? It’s a telephony switch. I doubt we replaced it with a data center. Now all of those can take advantage of

Alexander Ferguson 15:16
as you excite me in the future that you paint and and also I appreciate the way you synthesize your your insight and and the questions. Thank you so much for the time that you were able to spend with us. Where can people go to learn more? And what’s a good first step for them to take with your company?

Ganesh Sundaram 15:33
Oh, very good question. One, one place is our website. Follow us on LinkedIn, follow us on the other social media outlets, and more importantly, reach out to our marketing teams. We’ll be happy to expand we have a bunch of white papers out there that we’re constantly putting out. I speak in a bunch of conferences. So there’s our marketing team and our other technology leaders in the company as well as business leaders. So stay tuned. We use the internet, the edge internet to make ourselves no. So fascinating conversation. Thank you for the opportunity.

Alexander Ferguson 16:12
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